Written by Chrissy Burns, Director IT & Knowledge at Blake Dawson
Blake Dawson has been exploring the use of a virtual desktop solution to balance its need to protect confidential client data and its lawyers’ desire to take advantage of the productivity benefits offered by new devices such as iPads.
An increasing number of employees are approaching their IT departments with requests to use smart phones and tablet computers to access work-related email and documents. This trend accelerated with the release of the iPad. The iPad has a very attractive “form factor” (size and shape) and the app store boasts a plethora of apps, many of which are useful and others which are diverting.
Many IT departments have been hesitant to embrace these new devices. They are concerned that their consumer origins may mean that they do not meet the security and management requirements of large organisations. This is a particular challenge for law firms, as they store confidential data from a range of clients on their IT systems.
Blake Dawson is exploring the potential for desktop virtualisation to bridge these competing considerations. Virtual desktop solutions from vendors such as Citrix enable employees to access what is effectively an image or picture of their work desktop through a web browser. Information is stored securely on centralised corporate servers and all data processing is carried out on those secure servers.
A group of lawyers at Blake Dawson has been piloting this approach with iPads. The solution is based on Citrix’s XenDesktop and enables partners and staff to securely access work related documents and emails through a remote desktop on the iPad.
The feedback from the pilot has been overwhelmingly positive. Pilot users have highlighted a number of productivity benefits in using the iPad, such as portability, ease of use, and legibility. On the strength of the pilot the firm is now considering the purchase of additional iPads to add to its fleet of loan laptops.
The firm is well underway in addressing the practical considerations which are required to take the initiative from a pilot to a broader implementation. This includes a review of software licences and ensuring that its policies cover the use of personal devices. The IT team is also discussing how to approach support for these devices.
Solutions such as the virtual desktop are a reminder that creative solutions can be achieved despite the many simultaneous needs for security and productivity.